There are few restaurants in the world with as much buzz as Atomix these days. Fresh off its 33rd placement on the 50 Best List and garnering the Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award, highlighting their signature cards that accompany each course and explain every ingredient and the course's vision and meaning. (I have included the cards below prior to each course photo.)
This is a very difficult seat to get and coveted more than most these days. I have read that Atomix is the very height of dining and that it's not as good as its reputation. So I arrived very curious indeed.
Atomix sits in a neighborhood - one row house amongst other residential row houses. I initially walked right past it because it blends right in and sports a small and modest sign only.
I found this dinner to be spot on its 2 Michelin star billing. Enjoyable, high level cooking. I didn't see the "specialness" people have attributed to it. A similar experience to Atera in so many ways. The food is exquisite. Bright, beautiful and welcoming. That said, no dish challenged. Nothing pushed your palate or made you sit up and take notice. Each dish was "Mmmm" but nothing was "Whoa!!".
Overall, the menu arc made sense, and some dishes were especially beautiful and even inventive - such as the scallop dish, with the sliced scallop alternating with mushrooms in a luscious broth. The mackerel and pasta dish was probably my favorite, the accompanying side salad confusing at first but fitting, providing light breaks for the unctuous fish and pasta sauce. (I'm such a sucker for creamy pasta dishes...)
The tile fish was substituted (due to sourcing issues) with red snapper which was beautifully cooked and paired with a sauce that made you not want it to end. The wagyu and eel (oddly served together) each fell flat, but the desserts were stellar and provided a delightful end to the evening.
For the most part, service (their calling card) was terrific. Staff was extremely friendly and seemed genuinely excited that you were there. Some substantive misses for a place like this, however. Most notable was just as we entered. I had some bags with me (heading straight to the train after) - which I had notified them of ahead of time. The woman that greeted us seemed a bit confused and oddly pointed to the coat racks and told me "You can place them over there." Compare that to Aska who ably whisked them away without concern.
From there, we were asked to stand by the bar without any direction or drink, wondering if we were in the right spot, how long we would wait and what was to happen next. An inauspicious beginning. (I should note that the gentleman who saw us out more than made up for suitcasegate, taking the bag for me and walking it fully down the steps to street level before handing it back.)
Parties were spaced well from others, which was lovely. The first few dish introductions were presented to us alone. Then, they started sharing the introduction to us and the couple to our left, who were sitting a distance away. (2-3 chairs' worth) This created an awkward setup, feeling less individualized as well as making it more difficult to hear, having to lean over to catch what was being said. I'm still not sure why that changed midway through.
Bear in mind, I am grading on a higher curve given their award and penchant for hospitality, but these and other issues were felt, though they did not take away from the overall feel and service which was outstanding. I must also commend them as a COVID scare dropped our party of 4 to a party of 2 the morning of the reservation. They quickly and cheerfully cancelled and refunded the other two seats - very generous indeed.
The wine pairings were excellent - well-matched and well-explained. The final pairing of madeira bothered me. I love madeira! And the match with the dessert was impeccable. But something about it seemed like a copout - an easy, safe choice - when more creativity may have found a pairing not so ubiquitous.
There was plenty of generosity to go around, however, TWO dishes with white truffle (included). A celebratory macha cake for my friend's recent promotion. All boxes checked.
Bottom line - Atomix is worth it. It's terrific and exactly what a 2-star restaurant should be. I did not find the soaring experience others have spoken of, but didn't need it. It's a fantastic experience.
Replying to Steven Smith